Season Journeyed

Season10I can hardly believe it, but last night I finished the final step for the Guardian level of the season journey in D3.

When the season journey was first introduced in its current incarnation, it was something I was excited about for the cosmetic rewards far more than anything else. Since I’ve been participating, I’ve grown to love the “new game smell” of the start of a new season, complete with a decent sampling of my friends flocking back to the game to see what’s on offer, level together, and get the new goodies. I was completely casual about my playtime, enjoying murdering demons for the fun of it without pushing myself too hard. A few seasons in, I started hanging around with a few friends who would go all out at the start of the season, and were willing to carry me around so I could progress a bit farther. Those carry seasons saw me get my first bonus stash tab, and saw me start to push myself a little bit in terms of difficulty even when I was playing solo. The evidence that it was possible to meet the goals of the season was in front of me, and I got the urge to spend less time getting carried.

The past two seasons have seen me push way outside of my original comfort zone. I unlocked all my bonus stash tabs, and pushed into higher and higher greater rifts. Last season I got pretty close to completing the Guardian level of the season journey. I had all my conquests done, I just stopped short of a few other goals. The current season has been a little strange, since way fewer of my friends decided to come back for this one. Other than a little bit of paragon level farming in the first few days, I didn’t get carried to anything this time around. In fact, I was the one carrying some of my other friends more often than not, or at worst trading power leveling so we could do the set bonus conquests.

I pushed myself to get to GR70 solo as soon as I possibly could, so I could unlock the sweet sweet primal ancient drops. (Sadly this determination was repaid in a primal ancient Blackthorne’s piece and yes I am still bitter.) I ran rifts and bounties to gear up and level gems. I worked my way through 8 set dungeons and GR55 with 6 different set bonuses. And last night I soloed Adria in under 15 seconds on torment XIII and finally finished the Guardian requirements and officially completed the season journey. It was stressful sometimes and frustrating at others, but in the end it was an achievable goal and I’m glad I finally got motivated to follow through on it. I’m not sure whether I want to keep going in the season or switch to my non-seasonal stable. I am sure I will probably be taking a break from D3 soon, but maybe not right away. A friend recently asked if I was going to try for the achievement and wings for mastering all of the set dungeons for every class and I dismissed it because I figured I’d be working on the season journey for a while longer. Maybe I will try to get those wings after all.

Set Dungeons Round 2

To finish off my second conquest for the season I’ve been working toward clearing 8 different set dungeons. Last night I finally finished this off. I wrote about my experiences with the demon hunter dungeons here already, so now I want to discuss the wizard ones. Well, I mostly want to complain about the wizard ones.

The set dungeons are all incredibly uneven in difficulty. Overall, the demon hunter ones were pretty easy. The worst of those four was probably the Marauder’s, because you had to find and trigger all the rock worms but still avoid being in melee with them. In contrast, that dungeon was probably on par with the easiest of the wizard ones.

The first wizard dungeon I tackled was Tal Rasha’s. I love the mechanics of that set, but the dungeon was not super fun. It is very similar to the Marauder’s dungeon, complete with annoying worms you have to avoid. Keeping up stacks of the Tal Rasha buff isn’t too bad, the biggest challenge in this one is avoiding all the worms while still finding and killing everything within the time limit. I’d say this was one of the two easiest wizard dungeons.

Next up was the Firebird’s set dungeon. The layout was easy enough to memorize, but I struggled a bit with the objectives. You essentially have to group up mobs and let them “kill” you to spawn the meteor from Firebird’s set bonus, and hope you have collected enough to meet the objective. Since there’s a long cooldown timer on the meteor you only get a few chances over the length of the dungeon to finish this. The other objective, causing enemies to burn, was much easier. This dungeon is weird since to achieve both of the main objectives you have to artificially weaken yourself, so enemies can kill you and so they live long enough to catch the burning effect. It made clearing the whole place within the time limit a challenge, and it took me quite a few tries to finish.

The third wizard dungeon I attempted was Vyr’s, and honestly it was the worst of the four. The two objectives were actually fairly simple: getting stacks in archon form and killing enemies in archon form. Those things happen almost automatically in the normal course of clearing the place. What makes this dungeon awful is the size of it, combined with the number and type of enemies. Contrary to the Firebird’s dungeon, here you need to be as powerful as possible, to increase your archon uptime and to quickly kill all the enemy swarms so you can move away at high speed. The map is a maze and absolutely requires you to spam teleport to clear it in the time limit. Making things worse are the fallen-type enemies. The little guys run away which makes it hard to track down everything for the clear, and the shamans keep summoning more so they’re hard to keep track of. I spent an entire evening working on this one, and by the end every failure came down to one or two enemies that I had lost somewhere on the huge sprawling map.

Nervous after the rough time I had with Vyr’s, I put off the last dungeon for a couple days. Finally, last night I finished up with Delsere’s dungeon. I had a hard time finding written guides for this one for some reason, so I had to resort to watching a video guide, which I do not usually like. It turns out I really did not need to worry about it at all, it was by far the easiest of the wizard dungeons. Delsere’s is one of the set dungeons with a weird requirement that doesn’t seem to stem directly from the set bonus itself. In this case it means that you have to reflect 200 projectiles using wave of force. Luckily this can be done very early in the dungeon by finding a big group of bees and standing in a slow time bubble until they shoot a ton of tiny horrible bees at you. As long as you don’t get murdered by evil bees the only other thing you have to do is catch a few large groups of enemies in your slow time bubble and your main objectives are done. The map layout has some awkward spots that require a bit of backtracking but it is small enough and the enemies are generally grouped enough that it wasn’t a problem to finish in time.

Finishing the last wizard set dungeon netted me some achievement spam, finishing up my second conquest and completing the Conqueror tier of the season journey. I’m not sure it has been fun exactly, but mastering all eight of these set dungeons has at least been an interesting challenge. And I’ve learned which ones are easy to do for future seasons. Now I’m debating whether I want to try to finish the final, Guardian tier of the season journey. I have never actually completed that tier before, but I suspect I could make it this time around if I don’t burn out on the game first. I’ve already finished GR70 solo, extracted 40 cube powers, and leveled three gems to 70. That leaves a 4 minute (T13) speed run, a 15 second Adria (T13) kill, and one more conquest to do. We will see if I stay motivated long enough to finish those off.

Weekly gaming grab bag

I’ve been adrift a little bit in my gaming over the past week or so. The D3 season keeps progressing in smaller chunks, and I am getting close to finishing my second conquest. I just need one more set dungeon mastery, since I did Tal Rasha’s, Vyr’s, and Firebird’s after finishing my 4 demon hunter ones. The wizard dungeons have been harder overall than the DH ones, with Vyr’s in particular being quite awful due mostly to its size and spread of monsters to kill. I did the basic completion of Delsere’s before, but never mastered it. I guess as long as it isn’t worse than Vyr’s I should be fine. I am very much looking forward to being finished with these.

I’ve mostly wandered away from FFXIV, with most of my play time happening on Tuesday for our weekly raid night. There’s so much I could be doing but I’m in a really solid place to start the expansion so anything else is not very vital. It’s nice to stop obsessively grinding lore. I also made yet another attempt at FFXV and yet again bounced off it super hard. I guess I need to admit that the combat in that game is just not for me and let it go. At this point it is not that I can’t do it, it’s that I really just do not enjoy it at all. Instead I booted up a new game of Horizon: Zero Dawn and put in an afternoon reliving that joy. I think I’m going to try to motor through the story this time instead of doing all the side quests and exploration, just so I can have it fresh in my head to talk about with friends who are playing now.

I have also been logging into WoW every once in a while to work on my reputation grind to unlock flying. I’m hoping I can get it finished before my subscription runs out because I doubt I will pay for another month right now. The game is fun enough but the manic joy from the Legion launch is long gone and everything in front of me looks like a horrible long grind. While many of my WoW guildies have embraced the grind, it just makes me want to check out and do something else.

The same combination of overwhelming amounts of new stuff to do along with a long grind for character power rewards is keeping me away from WildStar as well. Every time I log in I have fun for a while but when I look into the long term progression I check out. These kinds of mechanics are great for people who are super invested in one game and need something to keep them engaged, but seem like this unassailable mountain that you will always be behind on when you’re a new or returning player. I guess this is one of the reasons why D3’s seasons are so appealing to me, because no matter how progressed or not my non-seasonal characters are, everybody gets to start over from scratch at the start of a new season, and you avoid that sense of “I can never catch up” that’s so demoralizing.

Well, that’s what I’ve been up to over the past week or so. I can feel the start of a super introverted spell coming on as I start poking at more single player games and avoiding group content. I’m mostly fine with this since I have a lot to keep me busy on my own, and my friends are somewhat dispersed across multiple games right now too. As long as I’m out of this mode by the time Stormblood launches I know I’ll be fine.

Ready, Set Mastery

I’m not sure why, but I ended up getting hooked into Diablo 3 season 10 in spite of myself. The season got off to a really slow start for me, barely getting through the main chapters of the season journey by the end of the opening weekend. Somehow that was still enough to get its claws in. I suppose it helps that I was sick a bit this week, and D3 is nothing if not the perfect mindless pastime when you aren’t feeling well.

One of the reasons I had written this season off is that the conquest options this time around are not that great. The “freebie” one is to level 3 legendary gems to 65, the rest are all stinkers. Two of them are speed run achievements that essentially require a coordinated group, and two more are multi-class achievements that require leveling at least one extra character. So of course I got it into my head somehow that I wanted to do the set dungeon mastery one. This requires mastering 8 different set dungeons. I had been throwing shards at Kadala trying to complete all of my demon hunter class sets and finally got them all.

I did the Marauder’s one first since that was the free gift set this season, and honestly it was one of the worst of the four. Those stupid rock worms are a pain and I was always tight on time because of missing an enemy or two in all the nooks and crannies of that map. Next up was the Unhallowed Essence dungeon, which had a lot of the same problems as the Marauder’s, but with fewer annoying worms. Mostly that one came down to RNG being kind and giving me nice double packs of spiders to hit with my multishot. The Shadow set dungeon was strange to me. I had never used that set before and clearing the whole thing in time with a single target impale build was pretty daunting. It turned out to be far easier than I imagined. After a couple practice runs to get the lay of the land I had no trouble with it. I saved the Natalya’s dungeon for last, mostly because I was waiting for a couple of extra pieces of gear to drop to help make it easier. Honestly I’m not sure it mattered. That dungeon was by far the easiest of the four. The map is nice and open and the objectives are incredibly easy.

The big lesson I learned from mastering all four of these is that set dungeons require a really different mindset from the rest of the game. For one thing, the map for each one is static, so it pays to memorize the layout (or look at the map ahead of time online like I did) to optimize your path. It also requires some patience and discipline, since for some of the objectives one misclick can mean failure. I found it helps to try to achieve a sort of zen state while attempting these. Do a few trial runs so your path through the map becomes second nature, since that will help make sure you finish in time. Then just focus on your objectives and glide along until either you win or you fail. I got very used to letting myself die quickly if I failed so I could port out and start over. All of these dungeons, even the easiest one, took at least 2 or 3 tries. I also recommend sticking with one until you clear it, because the few times I got frustrated and did something else just meant I had to get a few more practice runs in to get up to speed when I came back later. Better to just get through it while the dungeon and your build are fresh in your brain.

Anyway now I have two shiny new banners to show off my DH skills, and can start thinking about which other class I want to master. OK let’s be serious the answer here is wizard, which to my great shame I still haven’t gotten all of the masteries for. I’ll be leveling one up to correct this grievous error. And of course there is the ulterior motive here, which is that mastering ALL of the set dungeons scores you a sweet pair of wings. I honestly don’t know if I have it in me to do these for the melee classes, but maybe someday. Those wings are some serious motivation.

Diablo 3 Season 10 Starts

Each of the last few seasons seems to have started off worse and worse in terms of my enthusiasm, and season 10 continues the trend. I logged in on Friday night for the start and didn’t even have enough friends around to make a full group of 4 to level with. I guess I’m not the only one struggling to get excited about D3 right now. Sure the new quality of life additions are great, but there’s nothing fundamentally new or exciting about this season. On top of that, the conquests this time around are completely awful. If you want a stash tab you’ll probably need to either do a speed run which requires a coordinated group, or you’ll have to level multiple classes. I’m suddenly very glad I got all my tabs already.

As for my season progress, it is mixed so far. I only got to around level 50 on the first night of the season, which I believe is a new low for me. I didn’t play much at all on Saturday, so it took until Sunday for me to even reach 70. Luckily I’m playing a DH and their set this season is the Marauder set which I really enjoy and am familiar with. I also got a few lucky drops while leveling and doing early rifts, so I managed to clear up through chapter 4 of the season journey very quickly yesterday afternoon.

So my goal of getting my cosmetic stuff for the season is met, and I’m unsure how much farther I’m going to go with it. The game feels pretty stagnant right now, and I have no desire to work on this season’s conquests. Then again I really love the Marauder rockets build and am having a blast running around with it. I suspect I’ll play at least a little bit more and then let D3 fade again until there’s something new to do.

A Quiet Start to the New Year

I’m doing my best to keep this place from being abandoned this year but lately I’ve had more to say in my book posts than anything else. There hasn’t been too much exciting going on in my gaming life to talk about. I’ve been mainly playing old staples like WoW and Diablo 3. Then there’s Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc which I have a lot to say about but need to wait so I can talk about it on the podcast instead. I’ll still give a quick status update here since the blog must go on!

First up, WoW. I’m definitely hitting a boredom stage with Legion now. I got enough artifact traits on my main class and spec to unlock the 5% boost and then promptly lost all interest in doing world quests. Or much of anything to be honest. I’ve been poking at alts but since there’s a much higher amount of effort, and specifically group content, needed to progress professions in Legion I haven’t been that motivated to care about my alts as much as I used to. Raiding has also reached an awkward plateau where we can fairly easily clear normal EN and ToV and heroic EN, but anything past that seems like too much effort for not much reward. I took a mini break from raiding over the holidays and was hoping to come back energized but instead I got the opposite. Now I’m looking forward to Nighthold being released next week(?!) so we’ll have a new challenge. If that doesn’t re-energize me then I suspect it will be time for a short break from the game.

In D3 news, oh hey it’s season 9! I’ve been enjoying this season far more than the past few, even though there’s not really much new to speak of. The anniversary event was small but a fun distraction at the start of the season. I think the big thing that has drawn me in this time around is that I’m not playing a demon hunter. The past few seasons I’ve stuck with demon hunter because it made life easy for completing the season journey. While I don’t actively dislike the playstyle like I do for melee classes, it still ranks below casters in terms of general enjoyment for me. So swapping to a witch doctor has been a breath of fresh, plague-and-spirit-filled air. While wizard is always going to be my favorite in terms of raw power and player fantasy, there’s something incredibly fun about the silly abilities of the witch doctor. My only regret is that I chose to play this class in a season where their free set bonus emphasizes dots instead of pets, so I don’t get to have swarms of zombies and such following me around while I throw piranhas at things. Anyway my initial plan for this season was just to get far enough to unlock the cosmetic stuff, but it looks like I might keep pushing the season journey a bit farther than that.

Last but not least, my reading list is still looming over me. I set my goodreads goal for this year at 12 books, which seems very reasonable. I don’t have a timetable for my reading challenge other than trying to get through at least one a month, and I have a lot of other books outside the challenge that I want to get through as well. That said, the review for the next item on the list may have some delay. The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson appears to be the first time in this challenge that I’ve encountered a series that I actually want to keep reading, so even though I have finished the first book I will be holding off on my review until I decide if I am going to read all three.

So that’s what I have been up to. Nothing exciting but nothing bad either so I can’t complain. I hope the new year is treating you well so far!

The Shortest Season?

Diablo 3 Season 8 is here! I did my usual routine of grouping with friends on Friday night to level. This is the first season in a long time that I just could not get leveled before I crashed for the night. I think I made it to about 54 on Friday, and you could tell the group was getting tired as conversation in voice chat dwindled. On Saturday I got up early and finished leveling, then started working my way through the season journey. I decided to go with a Demon Hunter again this season because it had been so easy the past 2 times. Unfortunately this season’s set, with its buffs to rain of vengeance, just doesn’t feel that great to me. I know it is hard to judge without the full set bonus and all the extra pieces that really make things shine, but I definitely felt like I was having a harder, or at least slower time compared with previous seasons.

It might all be moot at this point, since I finished everything I needed for the first 4 chapters of the season 8 journey by yesterday morning. I’m now the proud owner of a  nice looking portrait frame, and the most disturbing pair of “wings” the game has introduced so far. I think if I want to keep going with this season I will have to farm a different class set, because even with my 6 piece bonus I’m not in love with rain of vengeance. I doubt I will bother, at least for a while, since Karazhan releases in WoW this week and I am sure I’ll be busy with that for a long time.

This season might be the shortest one for me. I’m still glad I participated, I had fun with Diablo this weekend, but there’s not much new and exciting to keep me around when other games have shiny new content. I’ll still hold on to hope that the Diablo franchise gets some serious love this year at Blizzcon.

Last Second Success

Surprise! I played something in the last week that wasn’t Legion! I realized that the Diablo 3 season was ending on Friday evening so I decided to hop in quickly on Friday afternoon to sort through my stash and prepare for merging my seasonal characters back into my non-seasonal stable. Usually I end up doing this after the season ends and I have a ton of items in my mail, and let me tell you, doing it ahead of time is way easier. While I was throwing away everything that wasn’t an ancient legendary, I realized that I was one conquest away from finishing the Destroyer tier of the season journey for season 7. I was pretty close to having 3 gems at level 65, so I decided to run a few rifts and try to go for it. In the process of farming rifts for keystones, I saw the season progress pop up for getting a speed run on a TXIII rift, which is one of the requirements for the stash tab. With just about 2 hours left in the season, I got my gems leveled and completed the Destroyer tier. Since I had gotten that speed run, the only thing I needed to finish Conqueror was a second conquest. About 45 minutes worth of running the Ruins of Corvus over and over again and I finally managed to get a 50 million gold streak and unlock my extra stash tab. It was pretty close to the wire but I did it.

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I think the most satisfying part of the whole thing is that this is the first season I can remember where I didn’t really get carried by anyone else. The friends who usually carry me didn’t play in season 7 or just barely played in the first week or 2 until the pre-Legion hype took hold. I managed to unlock the stash tab all on my own, and even got a personal best of greater rift level 71. Now I just can’t wait to see if there is finally some good news for Diablo fans from Blizzcon this year!

Not Missing Much

Oh no! I’ve missed a couple of days worth of posts! Good thing this year is the super chill version of Blaugust, and there’s no repercussions of a few missed days. I’ve had some medical stuff come up (don’t worry, I’m fine!) that makes sitting at my desk for long stretches a problem. Thus I haven’t done much gaming to speak of the past few days and don’t have much to say here.

I have found that Diablo 3 is pretty great for squeezing a little gaming into small doses. I can pop in and run a rift in 15 minutes or so and then take a break. I’ve even managed to get myself through GR69 and do a T12 rift in under 6 minutes for the season journey, so I’m almost finished the Destroyer rank. D3 isn’t as fun solo, but playing solo means I can walk away and pause the game at any time so it has been working out for my needs this week. At this stage I believe the only things I have left to do for the stash tab are 2 conquests and a T13 rift in under 5 minutes. Maybe I will get it this season after all. It is definitely looking like there’s more D3 in my future than I had planned, anyway.

What I’m Playing: August 21, 2016

Another week of nothing but Diablo 3 and World of Warcraft. It should be depressing that I haven’t played more games, but honestly I’ve been having tons of fun with these old comfortable titles.

WoW: I got my baby mage to 100 this week via the invasion roller coaster. I also got my legendary ring on my druid, so I can say I saw that story on at least one character this expansion. The story quest they added this week as part of the lead up to Legion was also really fun. It wasn’t as epic as the Broken Shore quest but it was nostalgic and entertaining. Now I’m just leveling various alts and enjoying myself in these last few days before the expansion. In addition to the baby mage I’ve gotten a warrior from 1 to 64 and a DK up to 79 with invasions. It will be interesting to see what the total level count from this event will be.

D3: There’s been slow but steady progress this week. I’ve gotten 3 legendary gems up to level 60, and managed to clear GR68 solo. The pants I screwed up a while back have been fixed, and 2 more pieces of ancient legendary gear have been augmented. I just wish I could find or craft an ancient bow, it is the one huge thing holding me back right now. I’m leaning more and more toward not bothering with the stash tab for this season, but I think I would at least like to finish the step of the journey that I’m on right now. I just need one conquest and a TXII speed rift to finish up.